I owe my life to the indigenous of Canada, known by many of them as Turtle Island.
No, it wasn’t some harrowing rescue from imminent death, but the rescue of my sense of self—and the world—from the murk of despair and spiritual blindness.
It has been around the fires lit by indigenous elders and wisdom keepers that I have seen the human spirit open in my fellow peoples, from all cultures, all walks of life, and, thus, I have set my eyes on beauty and strength that I had not known before.
It is on their lands that I came to understand the Earth as something alive, not by grand speculations alone, but through profound sensations and experiences that I can only attribute to some kind of metaphysical communication. It is through their rituals and the depth of their love that I have seen the truth of power as a force of community and humble wisdom; I am so gladdened to see them rising and rousing now, with those of us who can see the reasons and share in their care.
For those of us who understand, intensely, that what we’ve done to the planet is the most heinous atrocity and that their rising is fundamentally an instinctual defense to stop the killing of this world and to defend lives—ours included—that lie in the balance.
They are exuding what is only the most natural reaction to preserve and the fact that most of us are too dull to understand speaks volumes about just how far we’ve divorced ourselves from the essence of life itself.
Indigenous peoples, the world over, have been decimated by colonial powers; this is not news (though, perhaps it would be a good reminder if it was).
In North America alone, tens of millions of Native Americans were genocided beneath the colonial tsunami, most treated like inhuman ‘savages’ that were being put of their godless misery. For the colonial powers, there was no attempt to stop and understand them, to earn their respect or live with them as fellows. And now, in the wake of environmental ecocide, we’re reckoning with the karma of shirking their ways and wisdom.
It is grave indeed: our survival as a species is at stake as the Earth becomes increasingly imbalanced. And, in that, we face the greatest indigenous truth—that we are, in fact, nature itself, and that the toxins we pour into the waters, the garbage we dump over the lands, and the pollutants we smear on the sky is being done to ourselves.
In the blindness of worldviews that have lost connection, we’re slow to see.
And now, the indigenous have awoken in their cry to tell us that we must see, there is no more time to be idle. There’s too much at stake now and we must stop everything to listen.Self-portrait at The Turtle Lodge in Manitoba just before heading out on my vision quest.
This past summer, I participated in a vision quest with Anishanabe elder, Dave Courchene. Myself and a dozen or so other boys and men spent three days out in the wilderness in Manitoba, with no food and water to seek a vision of who we are, what our purpose in this life is (our gift to give to our people) and to understand the Mother Earth.
Around a fire on a beautiful June morning, I noticed the Canadian flag emblazoned on cap worn by David’s son. I gazed deeply at its symbol and saw it with new eyes widening with awe. What I saw felt like prophecy to me and I was overwhelmed with understanding; two red blocks on either side representing the red or indigenous peoples of this land. In the centre a white square signifying the colonial races who came to this land to exploit it for their own desires—they were being welcomed into the centre by the red people who surrounded them.
In the centre of this colonial race, there was a leaf signifying nature and indigenous wisdom of the Earth, which was to be bestowed upon them to set them right.
As a Mohawk elder told me once, there was once a time on this planet when all of the races were doing just the same, sitting around fires, prayingto the elemental forces of nature and the Earth and to the mysticism of the skies and stars above; hovelling in circle and community; seeking to connect and live with the land and each other in the most peaceful and harmonious way possible.
This same elder told me that it was an old prophecy that the indigenous of Turtle Island knew that destructive peoples would come one day and many of them would die by their hands. The prophecy foretold that these peoples were struck with madness and that, in fact, they had come all this way to be healed by them, but that the red people would have to go through much sacrifice to help them.
It is time we honoured the sacrifices of our indigenous brethren and go humbly to them to understand them; to learn about their love of their Earth which we have twisted into something dangerous.
It is time, because there is no more time; this is why they’re again putting their lives on the line, for something greater.
It’s that something greater that they will help us see and help us love.
Darren Austin Hall is a modern day Druid, meaning he somehow integrates being a healer, poet-sacred musician and mystic teacher, all in one. Formally, he has training in Chinese Medicine and some eccentric Shamanic Arts and informally, life has initiated him in a plethora of other wisdom ways, thanks to a cacophony of extraordinary teachers, friends, and experiences. He is especially passionate about indigenous culture and the earth as a living being that loves us all dearly. Darren is most renowned for his work as sound healer and sacred musician; he performs his unique quartz crystal singing bowls and intuitive chanting for yoga classes and in immensely powerful concerts that also combine other exotic instrumentation and spiritual textures. He is currently studying to be a yogi at Octopus Garden and is clearly a Gemini. Visit him here.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise